His nephew left the room without an angry word, notwithstanding. He stopped at the outer door to bestow the greetings of the season on the clerk, who, cold as he was, was warmer than Scrooge; for he returned them cordially.
‘There’s another fellow,’ muttered Scrooge, who overheard him: ‘my clerk, with fifteen shillings a week, and a wife and family, talking about a merry Christmas. I’ll retire to Bedlam.’
This lunatic, in letting Scrooge’s nephew out, had let two other people in. They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Scrooge’s office. They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.
‘Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe,’ said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list. ‘Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr Scrooge, or Mr Marley?’
‘Mr Marley has been dead these seven years,’ Scrooge replied. ‘He died seven years ago, this very night.’
‘We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner,’ said the gentleman, presenting his credentials.
It certainly was; for they had been two kindred spirits. At the ominous word ‘liberality’ Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back.
‘At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,’ said the gentleman, taking up a pen, ‘it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.’
‘Are there no prisons?’ asked Scrooge.
‘Plenty of prisons,’ said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
‘And the Union workhouses?’ demanded Scrooge. ‘Are they still in operation?’
‘They are. Still,’ returned the gentleman, ‘I wish I could say they were not.’
‘The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?’ said Scrooge.
‘Both very busy, sir.’
‘Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,’ said Scrooge. ‘I am very glad to hear it.’
‘Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,’ returned the gentleman, ‘a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?’
‘Nothing!’ Scrooge replied.
‘You wish to be anonymous?’
‘I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge. ‘Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas, and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.’
‘Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.’
‘If they would rather die,’ said Scrooge, ‘they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides — excuse me — I don’t know that.’
‘But you might know it,’ observed the gentleman.
‘It’s not my business,’ Scrooge returned. ‘It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good-afternoon, gentlemen!’
Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him.
Meanwhile the fog and darkness thickened so, that people ran about with flaring links, proffering their services to go before horses in carriages, and conduct them on their way. The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down at Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards, as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there. The cold became intense. In the main street, at the corner of the court, some labourers were repairing the gas-pipes, and had lighted a great fire in a brazier, round which a party of ragged men and boys were gathered: warming their hands and winking their eyes before the blaze in rapture.
Ďaľšie referáty z kategórie
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
|Jazyk:||Počet slov:||28 910|
|Referát vhodný pre:||Gymnázium||Počet A4:||78.7|
|Priemerná známka:||2.97||Rýchle čítanie:||131m 10s|
|Pomalé čítanie:||196m 45s|